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"Columbo" Short Fuse (1972)

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Let's Blow Up Uncle

Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
2 September 2012

Columbo's adversary here is Roddy McDowall the heir to a chemical company fortune who's a brilliant chemist in his own right. But he's given little to do and therefore indulges in silly behavior. As he is a chemist he's got the knowledge and skill to plant a bomb and rig it so that he's got a perfect alibi, miles away from the scene. And he's even got Anne Francis as an alibi.

Francis is James Gregory's secretary and he's an uncle by marriage to McDowall whose blood aunt is Ida Lupino. He's wanting to sell the company which McDowall thinks should be his. Gregory is the target and McDowall with his knowledge of chemistry and explosives rigs a bomb in a box of cigars which goes off while Gregory and chauffeur Lawrence Cook are in the car miles away.

McDowall is such an arrogant twit you practically stand and cheer when Peter Falk nails him. And he doesn't do it with evidence either. In fact in a somewhat slow moving episode the finale with the confession makes up for it. How Falk exposes McDowall is really something.

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6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

It should have been Sir Roddy McDowall!

Author: ( from United States
18 May 2006

It should have been Sir Roddy McDowall in my opinion. Why he never got knighted for his contributions to acting and drama, I will never know. This episode also feature Ida Lupino, another legendary actress, writer and director herself. Sir Roddy as I will call him plays a genius character who wants too much from his stepfather who played the evil Vice Presidential candidate in the original Manchurian Candidate. His plan is ingenious but there are exceptions being that Sir Roddy's character is still no match for Lieutenant COlumbo's genius. You have to laugh with him at the end of the film. Like most COlumbo episodes, you have to pay attention. We know who kills the character but how does Columbo catch him or her in some cases is just as fascinating as the episodes themselves.

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9 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

The Best Columbo Episode!

Author: Dphilly521 from United States
22 December 2004

"Columbo: Short Fuse" is quite special. It is my favorite episode of my favorite TV series. Roddy McDowall helped to make it terrific, above the rest. He was greatly assisted by Edward Abroms, who did a marvelous job of direction--especially with the opening and closing scenes. The music score is awesome. Great supporting cast of Anne Francis, James Gregory, William Windom, and Ida Lupino too. McDowall especially proves to bring a very entertaining combination of villainy and boyishness to his unforgettable role of Roger Stanford. This episode helped Season One of the series to set very high standards for the show to live up to.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A bombastic episode

Author: stones78 from United States
26 May 2015

This was an entertaining segment with an impressive cast of actors, which include Roddy McDowall, Anne Francis, James Gregory, Ida Lupino, William Windom, and Jason Wingreen. That is quite a cast! Let me get the bad out of the way first; that is, the guilty party usually acting too cocky when they should be the opposite, such as Roger Stanford(McDowall)does here. Also, the song that plays in the club while Gregory's character(David L. Buckner)gets blown up in the car may be the worst recorded song in the history of music. It's that bad! The good parts include a fairly original kill, a mountain railcar, Roger's cool car, some nice outdoor shots at a huge plant, and one of the funnier moments in the series that has Columbo accidentally shooting silly string all over his head. Although I mentioned above that the killers act too guilty, the final scene wasn't something I expected, and that adds to this fun segment.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Annoying villain and annoying ending

Author: Peter Cohen
11 October 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Agreed with previous poster who pointed out the logical flaw in Columbo's trick to catch the killer. It makes no sense that Roger would fall for the trick, since it's more than obvious the cigar box bomb blew up as planned.

I love Roddy McDowell throughout his acting career, but this performance is without a doubt the most annoying, grating character he ever played. It's a chore to stay with him.

But the thing that annoys me the most about this episode is something that's often irked me about Columbo -- the inappropriate use of loud ambient noise. The final scene, set in an aerial tramway, has continuous loud machine noise in the background. What machinery is making the noise? An aerial cable car, as anyone who has ever been in one knows, is a very quiet place. The noise of the hoist machinery is in the terminal stations only. Nuts.

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Even when he's wrong he's right

Author: sol from Brooklyn NY USA
30 September 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

***SPOILERS*** On the verge of being forced out of the family business sly and cunning Roger Standford,Roddy McDowall, plans to both set up his uncle the president of Standford Chemical David L. Buckner, James Gregory. the set-up is to be a faked affair with his private secretary Valerie Bishop, Ann Francis, and his uncle's private investigator and part-time chauffeur Quincy, Lawrence Cook, as the man who's blackmailing him.

Besides his obvious dislike of Uncle Buckner who's been trying to get rid of the buffoonish Roger for years Roger also has in for PI Quincy who got all the goods on him, Rogers gambling in the casinos with the company's money. If his aunt Doris, Ida Lupino, ever got wind of it Roger would be disowned and written out of her will.

Rigging up a box of exploding Cubans Cigars Roger sneaks it into Uncle Buckner's limo with a timer made to activate and explode a minute after the box is opened. With both Uncle Bunker and Quincy driving up to see aunt Doris that evening the car explodes after Uncle Buckner pulls out a cigar. Lt. Columbo, Peter Falk, is immediately put on the case being, as Aunt Doris said, he's considered to be by the L.A police commissioner the best man for the job.

Roger trying to act like a brainless smuck at first makes like he's completely unaware of his uncle's plans to can him out of the family business. Columbo suspects that the accident, which the tragic deaths of Uncle Buckner & Quincy was first reported as, was no accident at all but premeditated murder but didn't have the proof. Roger putting plan 2 into motion then implicated his Uncle Buckner and his secretary, Valerie, in an illicit affair and putting the blame of it coming out into the open on the company's vice president Everett Logan(William Windom), a bitter enemy of Buckner, with the deceased Quincy as his co-conspirator and fellow blackmailer. Getting an enraged Aunt Doris, who's the majority stock holder, to fire both Logan and even poor and unsuspecting Valerie. Doris then puts Roger in as chairman of the board of Standford Chemical a position that he wanted all of his adult life.

Lt. Columbo sets a trap for the arrogant Roger by playing on his ego in thinking that he's infallible and above the law. Cloumb does this by trapping Roger, with the help of Everett Logan, on a sky tram hundreds of feet above the ground. Telling the smug and conceited Roger that the deaths of his uncle and Quincy were in fact an accident Lt. Columbo surprises the double-murderer with a box of cigars! the box that Roger planted in Uncle Buckner's car.

Columbo breaking open the seal, which is supposed to start the minute explosive timer, Roger goes totally nuts trying to get off the tram before the box explodes practically confessing to the crime! As you guessed it the box was a fake which was obvious to anyone watching the movie but not to the super-intelligent Roger.

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McDowell Overplays It

Author: AudioFileZ from United States
21 September 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Peter Falk is Columbo, plain and simple. In other words he plays his role here like the icon he soon became. On the other hand, the guest star of the week, Roddy McDowell, went over the top playing Roger Stanford, as an heir to a chemical company who was also eccentrically brilliant.

In order to ascend to the control of his family's company Roger Stanford had to kill his uncle and neutralize his loving aunt. Saddled with a brilliant mind, but a crazed narcissism Roger believed he hatched a perfect accidental death of his uncle. This, actually, mirrors real life mega-millions family struggles, but what pushes this into less than dirty realism is the over-the-top performance by Roddy McDowell as the killer Roger Stanford. McDowell's character is simply too flamboyant and too eccentric. Columbo knew he did it the first time he laid eyes on him and all he had to do was give him the smallest bit of rope to hang himself. Not much tension as one might guess.

This episode had an excellent cast, not the least of which would have to be McDowell. If only the director had used some restraint this would have been extremely compelling one must believe. Roddy McDowell, a life-long thespian, certainly has the skills, but was pushed here to create a character with, roughly, twice the crazed madman persona needed to be a cagey foe for Columbo. How much nicer it would have been if Columbo would have had to actually do some work! Still, all in all, quite an entertaining story if too rote.

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Have a Cigar?

Author: BaronBl00d ( from NC
21 July 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

One of the possibly more routine Columbo episodes but vastly enjoyable nonetheless. This time around Lt. Columbo matches wits with a young man who is being ousted by his uncle by marriage from his own inheritance. Roddy McDowell plays the killer, and, yes, he does overact a bit. McDowell; however, is always a pleasure to watch on screen. I love that voice. McDowell is also one of the lesser intelligent "villains" despite the fact that he is a chemist and so on. What makes this episode work is not so much the by-play between Columbo and McDowell but rather McDowell and other characters. Columbo seemed to me to have a great deal less screen time than the typical episode. McDowell has a couple scene gems with James Gregory - who plays the victim, one who I did not feel the least bit sorry for at all. He is a reprehensible character. I digress. McDowell also has some good scenes with scrumptious Anne Francis - who though older - still looks like such a beautiful doll(birthmark and all). Ida Lupino is here too but somewhat wasted. William windom too. This episode has a lot going for it: a clever story, great character acting from all concerned, a histrionic-type performance by Roddy McDowell in the episode's denouement, and, of course, Peter Falk chewing up scenery(this time beautiful mountains and rugged terrain) as only he can. Columbo has a great comedic scene dealing with heights in one of the things that takes people up mountains. Also, a good one with a cop looking over a cliff. What's not to like?

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

One of the duds

Author: Tracy Winters from Carlsbad, CA
27 July 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Roddy (gay) Macdowell plays a spoiled rich kid who wants to take over his uncle's company.

Columbo tries to figure out the case with interest because the murder involves cigars. Mcdowell is his usual effeminate self (tight pants and all) which only makes one wish the episode would end sooner. Ida Lupino stands around looking stupid, Jack Gregory gets blown up, and Anne Francis is afraid some nude pictures of her will become public -- unfortunately, they never do.

A first season, albeit weak, episode from the series. Peter Falk is always good, but here, he does his 'smart-ass' schtick which was always a bore.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Writing Not Believable

Author: derek_larsson from United States
3 September 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This review does contain spoilers, so be forewarned.

I found what I consider to be a major problem with the main plot (below).

First, like many Columbo movies, Columbo has no real proof to work with but only speculation that seems like an uphill battle to really prove. In this episode, after a car containing victim David L. Buckner, the President of the Chemicial company, goes off a cliff, Columbo then jumps on the idea that there must have been an exploding cigar box --- presumably due to the fact that when Columbo gets called into the case, he hears a telephone recording made during the car ride (something technologically rare for the early 1970s), which captures conversation from Buckner about opening up a new cigar box. Okay.... a little bit of a reach, but at least he does know that parts of the car were burned before going over the cliff.

Now the villain, Roger Standford played by (the always weird and interesting) Roddy MacDowell, is a PhD Chemist who did wire-up a cigar box to explode, and planted it in the car with Buckner and his private investigator Quincy. But here's the problem: since this cigar box plot actually succeeded, and the car did explode and burn causing it to destruct and go down the cliff, then one would normally conclude that Roger would KNOW that the cigar box itself would not be a recoverable item from the accident, or even if it would be blown away into in tatters, and most importantly already detonated.

So when Columbo traps Roger, by showing him a "recovered cigar box" at the end of the movie, it is not believable to me that Roger would ever fall for that setup so easily, and freak out like he does -- and where he then incriminates himself in front of Columbo.

He's a chemist. He knew the box worked, and that the car was blown-up. Roger, like Columbo, had also heard the telephone recording where Buckner was starting to open up the box during the ride. Consequently, even if the police thought it was just an accident, Roger knew the truth. Therefore, he would also know that any "slightly burned" yet in-tact, whole cigar box presented by Columbo, which Columbo claimed to have been recovered, had to be a fake or planted box -- and not the actual cigar box that really blew-up the car. He would've have also known that even if the cigar box somehow survived the explosion in tact (impossible?), that it could not also detonate a second time.

But Columbo traps his man here anyway, with a planted cigar box that he claims survived the accident, and then Roger freaks-out thinking that it is going to explode on the tram ride (with Columbo) as he opens it, and then incriminates himself.

I found that not believable.

The odds of the car having a completely separate and naturally-occurring accident right at the same time as the lethal cigar box was opened in the car is: 1,000,000,0000,0000 to 1.

So someone who was a conniving PhD genius in Chemistry would also be smart enough to know that the cigar box had to have worked, and that once the real cigar box had indeed worked as planned --- then even if it were "recovered", it would not detonate again, and so this 'recovered' box had to be just a police gimmick, which was completely harmless.

So the writing/plot is simply not believable here.

But the acting performances are fine.

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